COVID Leaves Long-Term Scars on Europe’s Youth 

European borders and economies are opening up this summer, thanks to falling coronavirus cases and rising vaccination numbers. But experts warn the pandemic’s scars could be long term and profound—especially for young people, a generation Europe cannot afford to lose.
Things are looking up for young Parisians. Bars and restaurants have reopened, also schools and universities, for the last weeks before summer vacations.  Young people having coffee in Paris. France reopened bars and restaurants mid-may as coronavirus cases dropped. (Lisa Bryant/VOA)At a community room with other students, Sorbonne University student Katarzyna Mac is studying for final exams. She is grateful that months of coronavirus confinement are over.  At a community room with other students, Sorbonne University student Katarzyna Mac is studying for final exams. She is grateful that months of coronavirus confinement are over.  With France’s rolling lockdowns, Mac says, it was difficult and stressful to be alone all day in front of the computer. Like other students in France, she spent most of her academic year taking online classes from home. Katazyna Mac studies for final exams at her student housing outside Paris. (Lisa Bryant/VOA)Experts point to multiple ways the crisis has and continues to hit Europe’s youth — causing economic, social and mental distress. Many, like Mac, already live on the edge.  Shuttered businesses, especially in sectors like hospitality, wiped out job opportunities on which many depend.  European Union statistics estimate more than 17% of people under 25 are out of work — more than twice the regional average. Youth poverty and homelessness are on the rise. So is depression.  Abbe Pierre Foundation's European Studies head, Sarah Coupechoux, says many European youth are living on the edge. (Lisa Bryant/VOA)Sarah Coupechoux is Europe studies head for French nonprofit the Abbe Pierre Foundation. She says there is a segment of Europeans today, including young people, who are merely surviving. With the pandemic and job losses, huge lines of young people have been seeking food, and are hungry. A recent report by the charity also explores the growing difficulties Europe’s youth face in finding housing.  Like many other young Europeans, Mac was too poor to leave home. But she recently managed to find subsidized housing, at a building for young students and workers on the edge of Paris.  Her apartment has just enough room for a bed, desk and small kitchen. Dirty dishes are piled high in the sink. The refrigerator is mostly empty.  She gets student aid and a small government stipend. ...